Pro-democracy protests turn deadly in the Kingdom of Eswatini

At least 29 killed, hundreds wounded in the nation’s fight against monarchy

Since June 2021, the southern African nation of Eswatini has been fighting for democracy and economic justice while King Mswati III deploys lethal force against protesters. Having been in power since 1986, the king refuses to step down as the country experiences one of the most violent unrests in its history.

Officially known as Swaziland until 2018, the citizens of Africa’s last absolute monarchy are rallying for major government reforms. These include a democratic selection process of Eswatini’s prime minister and the release of two members of Parliament, Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, who were detained when the protests began.

The Swazi police have fatally shot over 29 demonstrators this year, seized personal belongings, and brutally interrogated journalists in an attempt to silence the pro-democratic movement, according to Swazi journalist Cebelihle Mbuyisa. The protesters also responded with violence, looting grocery stores and committing arson in the country’s two largest cities.

Tracey Dlamini, a 19-year-old university student in the capital Mbabane, described the gravity of the unrest to The Concordian, having witnessed these events unfold first-hand.

“I was really shocked, I’ve never seen anything like this in Swaziland in my entire life,” she explained. “The police were shooting the whole night, using tear gas, throwing protesters in vans like they were animals. I couldn’t even sleep hearing those gunshots. […] They shot even those who didn’t carry a weapon: small kids, mothers, fathers — everyone. All because we want one man to step down.”

On Oct. 21, the kingdom shut down internet access nationwide amid the new wave of protests, while also restricting movement under the current curfew from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Mswati III continues to rule with an iron grip, attempting to monopolize Eswatini’s economy for the royalty.

“King Mswati is the law himself, he can’t be arrested. People are dying of hunger, some regions have no water, […] and if you start a business and it’s successful, then the king will take it from you. He sees you as competition if you try to become rich,” Dlamini added.

In 2019, the Swazi monarch purchased 19 luxury Rolls-Royce cars for his 15 wives, which amounted to $30 million. While Mswati III continues his lavish lifestyle, 63 per cent of Swazis live under the poverty line with an alarming 41 percent of the population being unemployed.

The king himself referred to the protests as “satanic,” saying they are turning the country backwards. Still, the manifestations show no signs of slowing down, notably among high school and university students, while the path towards democracy remains complex for Eswatini.

“We’re fighting for a democracy that has been deemed futile in so many African countries, like the neighbouring Lesotho,” said Georgia*, a Concordia student who grew up in Swaziland. “We need a system for ourselves which encompasses both the current system and a somewhat democratic one, and it’s intangible right now since emotions are high.”

The student added that Eswatini’s humanitarian crises have often been overlooked by the United Nations and the West, causing the landlocked country of 1.2 million people to deal with rampant poverty on its own.

“We need external forces to help, we need more awareness from the western world. They are the only ones who can actually bring democracy to reality in a country such as ours,” said Georgia.

Earlier in June, Canada expressed its commitment to strengthen democratic institutions throughout the world at the G7 Summit in Cornwall, England. However, the Trudeau government has yet to address Eswatini’s ongoing violence or provide support for the fellow Commonwealth member.

*To protect the subject’s identity, we are using their preferred pseudonym.


Graphic by Lily Cowper


Coup d’état in Myanmar

The Southeast Asian nation faces major threat to its democracy

On Feb. 1, a military coup took place in Myanmar following alleged voter fraud in last November’s general election. The army has detained former President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, thus taking full control of the government.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party formed a majority government after winning more than 60 per cent of the seats in Myanmar’s parliament last November. However, the military accused the party of voter fraud and refused to accept the results.

Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing managed to reverse Myanmar’s transition towards democracy. His army severely limited telecommunications and shut down the internet across the country for 24 hours on Feb. 6.

A state of emergency was declared for a whole year as soon as the coup began. The official announcement was transmitted by military-owned television network Myawaddy TV.

Expecting a wave of mass protests, the new government banned all gatherings of more than five people in Myanmar’s two largest cities and imposed an overnight curfew.

Still, thousands of protesters — particularly monks, school teachers and students — took to the streets of Yangon in demanding for Suu Kyi’s release. Doctors, nurses, and government workers have also contributed to this resistance by engaging in civil disobedience, which continues to this day.

Since Feb. 1, the military has arrested at least 241 peaceful demonstrators and activists, including senior government officials. The Burmese police force also fired water cannons at the protesters to control the opposition movement in the capital city Naypyidaw.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly condemned the actions of Myanmar’s military, calling on the self-declared government to immediately release everyone who has been detained and to respect the democratic process in the nation.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden issued sanctions against Myanmar, freezing all American assets of military coup leaders, denying them entry into the United States, and restricting many Burmese exports until the military steps down.

As of now, Suu Kyi may be sentenced to two years in prison for possessing “illegal” walkie-talkies. In fact, this is not the first time that the state counsellor has been targeted for representing democracy in the nation. She has already spent 15 years under house arrest throughout her political career.

In 1991, Suu Kyi received a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to establish democracy in the country. She continues to strive for justice in Myanmar by calling on the nation to protest against the army’s takeover to prevent “a military dictatorship.”

However, the military coup leader announced that only cooperating with his government will help Myanmar achieve “the successful realization of democracy.” Despite the mass protests and international attention, the military is not willing to step down from its position of power anytime soon.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab


Joe Biden will be the next U.S. President, but Trump refuses to concede

While Democrats won the 2020 presidential election with a record turnout, the current president claims the election was stolen

Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States. He is projected to win the presidential election with at least 290 electoral votes, surpassing the threshold of 270 needed to win. Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris will become the vice president, being the first woman, as well as the first Black and first South Asian person in American history to occupy this position.

Biden received over 75 million votes, an all-time high for a presidential candidate, earning 50.6 per cent of the popular vote thus far. Meanwhile, 70.6 million Americans voted for the incumbent President Donald Trump.

Although the presidential election took place on Nov. 3, it was far from over that night. As Biden and Trump had an incredibly close race in several battleground states, Biden was announced as the projected winner only four days later. In his victory tweet, Biden addressed the nation, saying, “America, I’m honoured that you have chosen me to lead our great country.”

On election night, Trump was leading in the majority of swing states. However, in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Trump’s lead started to shrink the following day as the mail-in ballots were being counted.

The 2020 election witnessed the highest number of ballots in U.S. history, with over 159.8 million Americans having cast their vote. In fact, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the country had a 66.8 per cent voter turnout, the highest since the year 1900.

Biden and Harris have also broken several records themselves. At the age of 77, Joe Biden became the oldest president-elect in American history. The previous record was held by Donald Trump, who was 70 years old when he won the 2016 presidential election.

Despite the Democrats’ projected win, President Trump appears to not be willing to deliver a concession speech anytime soon. In fact, he refuses to accept the outcome of the election, claiming there was widespread voter fraud and lack of transparency.

“If you count all the legal votes, I easily win the election! If you count all the illegal and late votes, they can steal the election from us!” stated President Trump.

He was referring to millions of mail-in ballots that were counted after Nov. 3, which strongly favoured his opponent and led to Trump’s loss. In fact, those millions of mail-in votes were just as valid as in-person votes that were cast on Election Day, since they were all stamped on or before Nov. 3. As laws in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin barred officials from processing the mail-in ballots before 7 a.m. on election day, many of them were counted in the days that followed.

Trump questioned Biden’s increasing lead as the remaining votes were being counted.

“How come every time they count Mail-In ballot dumps they are so devastating in their percentage and power of destruction?” asked the president on Twitter.

In reality, the remaining mail-in ballots were coming from heavily Democratic urban centres such as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Atlanta, Georgia. Moreover, the Trump campaign ran Facebook ads earlier this fall to warn his supporters not to trust mail-in voting. Republicans were thus more likely to vote in-person than Democrats, which created an illusion on election night that Trump was the favourite to win in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

Instead of accepting the result as it became clear, Trump tweeted “STOP THE COUNT!” on Nov. 5. This anti-democratic process would prevent the president-elect from overtaking Trump in battleground states. Besides this unprecedented request, Trump suggested that “there was a large number of secretly dumped ballots as has been widely reported,” even though there is zero evidence that could prove such a claim.

The incumbent president plans on taking this matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, which he believes should determine the final electoral college results. However, it is very unlikely that Supreme Court justices will get involved in the election, as the Trump administration lacks concrete evidence of “widespread voter fraud” for this legal strategy to work.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated Biden and Harris on their election win Saturday morning. In an official statement, Trudeau said that “Canada and the United States enjoy an extraordinary relationship,” and that he looks forward to working with the president-elect, vice president-elect and the U.S. Congress to “tackle the world’s greatest challenges together.”

When it comes to Canada, Biden’s presidency may add some uncertainty to trade between the two nations. On the one hand, Biden’s environmentally-friendly policies are likely to open the market for Canadian clean energy technology. There will also be less uncertainty regarding Canadian steel and aluminium, which were temporarily subject to tariffs imposed by Trump in 2018.

On the other hand, Biden has pledged to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, a multi-billion dollar project that would allow Alberta to transfer over 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day across the border to Nebraska. Meanwhile, Trudeau actively supports this project and vowed to press any U.S. government on its approval.

As for the Canada-U.S. diplomatic relations, the president-elect referred to Canada as an ally and a friend, “one that the U.S. needs more than ever.” Biden also called for the United States to play a more active role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an international military alliance that includes Canada as a long-time member.

Going forward, Biden promised that he will be a president for all Americans, who “doesn’t see red and blue states, but a United States.”

While Trump refuses to accept defeat and to respect the choice of the American people, Canada prepares for a new chapter in the relationship between the two nations.

President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will have an official inauguration ceremony on Jan. 20, 2021.


Briefs News

World in brief: The Berlin Wall, Bolivia’s unstable democracy, and virginity tests

This weekend marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. More than 100,000 people celebrated this historical event in the city, where images and videos from Nov. 9, 1989, were projected onto buildings, reported the Associated Press.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the opportunity to remind the world of the danger of taking democracy for granted. “The values on which Europe is founded – freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law, human rights – they are anything but self-evident and they have to be revitalized and defended time and time again,” said Merkel during the official ceremony, as reported by various outlets. Built after the end of World War II, the Wall divided East Berlin, occupied by the Soviets, from the West, controlled by the Western allies for 28 years during the Cold War.

Instability in South America continues to grow as Bolivia President Evo Morales resigned after nearly 14 years in power. On Monday, the country entered what the Associated Press referred to as an era of political uncertainty, after Morales stepped down over ongoing protests about the legitimacy of his re-election, earlier in October. Morales, the first Indigenous Bolivian president, had controversially abolished the limits of presidential terms, even after the 2016 referendum showed a majority were against that decision. While Carlos Mesa, who finished second to Morales in the election, called this a “democratic popular action,” BBC South America correspondent Katy Watson pointed out the fact that the military was behind what few people dared to call a coup, which strongly endangers the country’s democracy.

American rapper T.I. prompted strong backlash after revealing in a podcast that he’s been taking his 18-year-old daughter for annual hymen checkups, to make sure she’s still a virgin. In a segment aired on Ladies like us last Tuesday, which has since been removed, T.I. explained that “not only have we had the conversation, we have yearly trips to the gynecologist to check her hymen. Yes, I go with her … I will say, as of her 18th birthday, her hymen is still intact.” Medical experts were quick to denounce his comments, stating that there is no such thing as a scientific-based virginity test, but rather a shameful procedure, reported The New York Times.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Is Democracy Obsolete?

The Democracy Index Study 2016 stated that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. And yet, as Rosa Drucker, a member of American Jewish group IfNotNow, mentioned during a press conference, Palestinians are denied proper medical care, education, economic opportunity, and freedom of movement.

There’s another name for this selective democracy; it’s called systemic discrimination. That is what resulted in Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib being banned from entering Israel on a diplomatic visit.

“What we saw this week demonstrates Israel’s desperation to hide the realities of the occupation from us,” said Drucker. I mention this because it’s important to note that Anti-Semitism – despite the right’s incessant attempt to convince itsel – is not the same as being against the inhumanity shown by Israel to Palestine.

“I’ve never seen anyone who has gone and seen for themselves, and not be transformed by that experience,” said journalist Peter Beinart in an interview on CNN. Beinart also preaches at his synagogue and is a highly devoted Jew who has been to Israel, and seen Palestine.

Omar and Tlaib’s visit was organised by the Palestinian group called Miftah, whose leader is Hanan Ashrawi, a politician who once delegated Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. According to Ruth Margalit in The New Yorker, Miftah has previously shown disdain towards Israel. It’s understandable why the government felt uneasy about the visit.

Margalit also stated that Israel passed a law in 2017 that allows the government to refuse admittance to people who support the boycotting of the state. Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, told The New Yorker it was a moral stance, and the government had no choice but to ban the congresswomen. However, opposing leaders in the state pointed out that the interior minister has the right to make exceptions.

“A democratic country can’t deny entry to elected officials of a friendly democracy,” said Tamar Zandberg, of the leftist Meretz Party, in a statement.

The point that should be stressed here is that the law has rarely, if ever, been used against Americans. It shows that the Israeli state doesn’t really see the American in Omar and Tlaib. Sound familiar? American Palestinians, such as Tlaib’s family, have been put through agonising treatment with several check-points which other Americans don’t undergo. Tlaib recalled in her speech at the press conference, the humiliation her parents went through when she was younger. Treating someone differently because of their ethnicity, despite equal citizenship and rights, is racist.

Even though the visit was organised by Miftah, Omar and Tlaib were supposed to meet with Aida Touma-Sliman, a representative of the Joint List, a political alliance between the main Arab-dominated Parties in Israel— Balad, Hadash, Ta’al, and United Arab List. The Joint List does not support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (B.D.S) movement.

The trip was titled “Delegation to Palestine,” and it was a call to the state for transparency on their treatment of Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu stated there would be no meeting with members of the Israeli Parliament as a reason for his decision on the ban. In that case, shouldn’t all democratic visits who have previously only met with one side also be forced to meet with both? Or is this just another attempt at having control over what is seen and what isn’t?

Margalit wrote in her article in The New Yorker about meeting with Touma-Sliman; she was supposed to “draw parallels between the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians and its own Arab citizens and President Trump’s treatment of immigrants.”

This visit would have shone the light on infringements of international human rights. Those raging about ICE and the situation in the U.S. should be aware of the similarities in Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

When Israel gave Tlaib permission to enter the state under humanitarian pretences, she refused because of all the restrictions— restrictions that involved going against her moral beliefs. Unable to see her grandmother, unable to see Palestine, unable to expose atrocities; that’s the agenda.

Some challenged Tlaib’s genuine regret in not being able to see her grandmother, stating that had she really wanted to see her, she would’ve abided by the restrictions set by the Israeli government. Tlaib’s response was simple. A Tweet. A quote from Desmond Tutu:
“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.” Israel doesn’t even have appetizers for Palestinians, and that is no mere opinion.

There is a reason all these opposing voices are dubbed terrorists or anti-semitic without a second thought. History is written by the victors, and, so far, those who haven’t seen believe self-proclaimed heroes. This is a worldwide story, where discrimination, racism, and political gain are the major themes — the only difference is that some characters look like you, while others look like me.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


Don’t write off your right to vote

On Nov. 5, citizens across the province will have the chance to exercise their democratic power by voting in a municipal election. We at The Concordian would like to take this opportunity to remind our fellow students that they too hold the power and responsibility to cast a vote and be a part of the democratic process.

To start off, it’s important to understand the structure of municipal elections. In Montreal, for example, votes will be cast not only to decide the city’s mayor but the city councillors and 19 borough mayors as well.

Each borough has its own council consisting of at least five members, including city councillors, borough councillors and a borough mayor. This council meets every month and can make decisions about issues pertaining to parking permits, construction work and libraries, among other topics within the jurisdiction of their borough.

The city council, on the other hand, consists of the mayor of Montreal, 46 city councillors and all of the borough mayors. This council can make decisions about urban planning projects, the environment, the city’s budget and other major projects.

As voters, it’s also essential to know about the two major mayoral candidates and what their platforms entail. When it comes to public transit in Montreal, for example, incumbent Mayor Denis Coderre said he hopes to add to the STM’s fleet and invest in more electric buses. Projet Montréal leader Valérie Plante, on the other hand, plans to create a pink metro line that would run from Lachine to Montreal North.

In terms of housing, Plante wants to advocate for provincial and federal investment in housing programs. Meanwhile, Coderre is looking to increase the number of housing inspectors and create a registry to investigate slums and poor apartment conditions.

Among other initiatives proposed by Coderre, there is a plan to develop day and night centres for the homeless in various boroughs, to promote creativity in arts and culture, to expand the cycling network, and to open a new sports complex in Lachine and an aquatic centre in Pierrefonds-Roxboro.

Along with her Projet Montréal team, Plante hopes to make major repairs to transform bike lanes into bike paths, increase transparency when it comes to funding cultural events, increase the amount of time pedestrians have to cross the street and make 300 more homeless shelter spaces available in the city.

On Oct. 23, the two mayoral candidates squared off in an intense debate that tackled topics ranging from the controversial breed-specific ban and bringing professional baseball back to the city to public transit and Bill 62. An article by CBC News described the two candidates as “polar opposites, as night-and-day.”

The same article also highlighted the importance of word choice in politics and provided an analysis by two political science PhD students. “In focusing on word patterns, as opposed to specific utterances, this kind of analysis offers a general sense of how the two contenders are trying to win over voters,” the article stated.

It’s important to understand the stances each candidate takes, to notice their choice of words and observe the tones they used when discussing specific issues. But what’s more essential is recognizing your own power as a citizen and the opportunity voting allows you to make a difference in your community.

Municipal elections may not seem like a high priority for many, but they are arguably more important than larger provincial or federal elections. The changes each candidate is looking to make are about issues that directly impact your community. These are the issues that are closest to home.

When we don’t vote, we don’t see the changes we want. When we don’t vote, we lose the ability to say we live in a democratic and politically active society. So take the time to learn a little bit about what each candidate is offering and, most importantly, go out and vote on Nov. 5.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


The Umbrella Revolution is being left out in the rain

Why the protesters shouldn’t look West for help, and won’t get it

The pro-democratic civil disobedience campaign in Hong Kong has reached its zenith. At the time of writing, protesters are flocking to the financial district in droves in an attempt to force Beijing to democratize the electoral process. The forthcoming election in 2017 for Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s Chief Executive is set to be fought between three candidates approved by a committee of pro-Beijing business leaders, making a mockery of the democratic process.

The likelihood that Beijing will acquiesce to the popular will of the masses remains in question. While Hong Kong possesses many of the democratic characteristics of a civil society, China, however, does not. Beijing fears that any greater concessions to Hong Kong may empower China’s population to not be as docile as they perhaps have been since the 1989 bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square. But for those restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, Beijing is anxious not to set a dangerous precedent which separatist activists would seek to emulate.

“Protests have erupted in Hong Kong over the demand for a free and democratic election. The protesters have dubbed their dissent the ‘Umbrella Revolution’, in reference to the umbrellas they used to deflect tear gas cannisters. (Source: Doctor Ho / Flickr)”

For the time being the Hong Kong police force have, on separate occasions, both shown restraint on occasion and aggression; they have certainly yet to collude with the protesters in solidarity against Beijing. On Sept. 29, they stood off from protesters after being criticized for their heavy-handedness the previous evening. Nevertheless, for the time being, they have certainly remained loyal to their pro-Beijing paymasters. In fact, as recently as Oct. 3, the Hong Kong police were criticized for failing to protect the protesters from pro-Beijing mafias who attacked the peaceful, pro-democratic masses.

In a disturbing reality, British businesses are in fact facilitating the suppression of these protests; British company Chemring recently sold 4,000 inert crowd control grenades to the Hong Kong police force, according to The Guardian. If our Western governments really advocate the continued democratization of the world, in areas untouched by Third Wave Democracy, then they ought to rescind the licenses for military grade lethal and nonlethal weapons — such as those that have been granted to the Hong Kong Police force and many other organizations and states that engage in suppression.

Under the “two systems, one country” agreement that Britain negotiated with China in the ‘80s in advance of the 1997 transferal of sovereignty, Hong Kong’s citizens reserve the right to many liberties unimaginable on mainland China. The rights of both free speech and the freedom to protest are enshrined in Hong Kong’s legal system, although it stops short of allowing residents to directly elect their own government. This begs the question that Britain perhaps ought to have done more to ensure democratic rights for the post-colonial society, like they did in other parts of their old empire.

Beijing is stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they were to crack down on the protests it would provoke widespread international condemnation and risk capital flight from the financial business hub (which is a now indispensable component of China’s plan to liberalize and modernize their economy). Failure to suppress the pro-democratic movement, or indeed to give in to the will of the masses, would certainly place mainland China on a path of tolerance and liberalism which Xi Jinping’s government is seeking to avoid.

The West ought to be doing more to alienate China for its human rights abuses on the mainland and for stifling Hong Kong’s democratic maturation. Realpolitik, however, demands that the West maintains a working relationship with Beijing. So for the time being, it would appear, the protestors on the streets of Hong Kong are the sole agents of prospective change.

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